Aug 17 2007 by Robin Turner, Western Mail
THE debate on whether big cats stroll the Welsh hills may still be ongoing.
But now an animal lover from the Swansea Valley wants to open his “hotel for cats” to leopards.
Gareth Williams, who runs the Abertawe Country Hotel for Cats in Glais in the Lower Swansea Valley, has applied for permission to breed Persian leopards in a special secure enclosure there.
Swansea Council has turned down his application for an operating licence under the 1976 Dangerous and Wild Animals Act.
Mr Williams, involved as a volunteer helper in an international big cats conservation scheme run by the European Endangered Species Project, has appealed to the Welsh Assembly Government.
Speaking at his cattery in Ynysmond Road, Glais, he said, “I hope to know within the next two months. It has stirred up quite a bit of interest but the project is vitally important for the future of Persian leopards which are an endangered species.
“I cannot say too much at this stage, however, out of respect for the planning process and those tasked with making a final decision on this.”
Swansea Council received a 338-name petition in support for the project and a 137-name petition against.
Mr Williams hopes to keep two Persian leopards at the Abertawe Country Hotel for Cats, with the aim of breeding them and then eventually releasing the animals in their natural habitats.
The Persian leopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor) is currently endangered throughout its distribution area in the Middle East.
The principal factors jeopardising the long-term survival of the Persian leopard are disturbance by building and commercial activities, poaching, and wildfires.
It can grow to up to 1.5 to 2.7ft tall at the shoulder, and weigh as much as 155 lbs.
The Persian leopard’s diet varies from small mammals and birds, to larger animals such as deer, antelope and occasionally wild boar.
The animal silently stalks its prey then strikes without warning, ending with a bite to the throat.